Squeeze the Day for Feb. 17

Heartless Bastards and Gringo Star, plus Today in Music with Manic Street Preachers and Paris Hilton vs. Joseph Gordon-Levitt

click to enlarge Erika Wennerstrom with Heartless Bastards at MPMF09
Erika Wennerstrom with Heartless Bastards at MPMF09

Music Tonight: With the release of Arrow on Valentine's Day, soulful rockers Heartless Bastards have returned to their home away from home — the touring circuit — and tonight they're back in Greater Cincinnati, their home before their current home (Austin) and the town in which they were birthed. Arrow is the Bastards' finest release yet, a return to the crunchy Rock & Soul of their first two albums, largely leaving a lot of the rootsier leanings of their third release, 2009's The Mountain, behind. The new album is also the first on its new label home, Partisan Records, a Brooklyn-based/artist-run indie. If you want a little afternoon appetizer before tonight's big show, head to Shake It Records in Northside this afternoon. The Bastards are slated to make an in-store appearance at 1 p.m. and play some tunes from the new record. And if you're unable to catch the band at all today, you can at least see them play one tune live — on Wednesday (Feb. 22), the band returns to Late Night with David Letterman.

Arrow is scoring great press so far, including positive nods from Rolling Stone, Paste, Pitchfork and … well, pretty much every outlet you can think of. It's nothing new for Erika Wennerstrom and Co. — I don't recall ever seeing a scathing review of anything the band has done. (Read CityBeat's other show preview here.)

Tonight's show at the Madison is open to all-ages and starts at 8 p.m. with fellow Texan rockers Hacienda. Tickets are still available ($17) but don't wait too long to get yours, The band's shows in Indianapolis and Pittsburgh this weekend have already sold out — a "former-hometown homecoming" show would seem likely to do the same.

Here's a clip of the band performing on Chicago radio earlier this week.

• Atlanta Indie rockers Gringo Star are at MOTR Pub tonight for a free, 10 p.m. show with local openers Fists of Love. The band has been praised widely for its take on classic British Pop/Rock, mixed with Southern soulfulness and a punkish frenzy. Gringo's latest album, Thank Yer Lucky Stars, which came out last fall on NYC indie, Gigantic. Here's the latest video from the album, "Come Alive," the best Lego music video since that White Stripes one.

—-Momentous Happenings in Music History for Feb. 17
On this day in 2001, British favorites Manic Street Preachers became the first western act to play Cuba in over 20 years. The band performed for 5,000 Cuban Rock fans at Havana's Karl Marx Stadium. Among those rocking out — Fidel Castro, who met backstage with the group before the show. The concerts defied America's declared economic and cultural embargo on Cuba. America responded by never buying any Manic Street Preachers albums.

Here's a clip from the show, which the band had filmed for a DVD release called Louder Than War:

Born This Day: Musical movers and shakers born Feb. 17 include: Rock & Roll Hall of Fame performer/songwriter Gene Pitney (1941); R&B/Jazz singer Chante Moore (1967); Green Day guitarist/frontman Billie Joe Armstrong (1972); Country singer Bryan White (1974); and two non-musicians who have made music — actor Joseph Gordon-Levitt and professional celebrity Paris Hilton — were both born on this day in 1981.

Here are video clips from both Paris (uh, not from THAT video) and Gordon-Levitt (former child sitcom star turned seriously talented grown-up actor) giving music a go. So … who's the better talent?

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